Discovering Johor Bahru, Malaysia


I was one of those typical persons who used to check in at places on Facebook, I'm sure you do that too! C'mon! And during our recent trip to Malaysia I happened to check in at a hotel and the airport in Johor using applications on my mobile phone. A few of my friends messaged me privately asking, "Where is Johor Bahru?" And another one is, "What is in Johor Bahru, why did you go there?". OK! Johor Bahru, is another city in Malaysia. And the reason why we go there is because of Legoland. Ask me what it's like? Well, just to share to you some of the things I've learned and experienced at Johor Bahru, here's a short blog. 

Johor Bahru is the capital city of Johor in southern Malaysia and was considered as the second largest city in the country. It sits right next to the national boundary between two inseparably linked countries, just across the causeway of Singapore. Due to its proximity to the Lion City (which we all know is a clean city) it unavoidably suffers from comparison. It used to be denounce as a dirty and chaotic border town. Not until it was repaved, ameliorated and replanted and became a lively and more desirable place to hang out. 

Locals and other tourists of Singapore used to cross the boarders to flood this place for shopping due to it's cheaper goods. Yes, its true! Riding the bus for RM8 one-way, the journey to Johor is about 45 minutes from Singapore. Just recently, it became a major tourist destination because of the opening of its two major amusement theme parks which is the Legoland Malaysia and Hello Kitty Town. And that's the reason why we travelled by plane from Kuala Lumpur to Johor Bahru. Riding the bus can take you there but it will consume most of your time, and it can be very tiring having to travel for 6-8 hours just to reach the place, while taking the plane took us only 45 minutes. Thanks to Airasia for the P99 pesos promo fare I chanced upon their website! God is really great!

The airport in Johor is the Senai International Airport which is formerly known as the Sultan Ismail International Airport located in the town of Senai. It is the hub of AirAsia and the domestic hub of Malaysia Airlines. From Senai International Airport it took us around 35 minutes to reach the city of Johor via taxi for RM45. The airport is quite small and old, but some of its architectural structure has been rebuilt, there's a mall inside the airport not too big. 

Since we are on a domestic flight we were ushered to the domestic departures and arrivals which I noticed was the old one, not organized and crowded. The toilets are manned by maintenance staffs but not properly maintained especially the odor and the dirty toilet seats. Full trash bins should be emptied right away but seems like the staffs are busy or doesn't seem to care at all. For some this scenario can be tolerable but for me it's a NO. But anyway, we still have the worst, our very own NAIA Terminal 1, I still have high hopes for the world's worst airport ever.

Few local fast food chains occupies the airport. There are taxi booths available near the entrance/exit which is quite convenient for travellers especially those who arrive in the late hours of the evening, you can get a taxi from the front desk and settle the payment there, then outside the airport to the left wing are airport taxis available anytime.

We actually didn't have any organized tour around Johor Bahru, and was not able to visit a lot of places especially the tourists spots and historical landmarks except for Legoland and Puteri Harbour. But staying there for two nights and passing by at different places going to and from our itineraries, I was able to see some of the new developments that has taken place in the fast growing city. They got six-lane highways/freeways and newly constructed toll plazas. Distances from one district to another is quite a long way.

We ride the red taxis (budget taxi) and the bus, jumping off at JB Sentral which is one of the busiest place in the city. We even took an illegal taxi from there going to our hotel, which brought me bundles of nerve. I didn't know they got "colorum" vehicles in the city just like here in Pinas! Taxi ride is cheap and we always prefer metered taxis because there are taxis who refuse to turn on their meters, which means you need to bargain for the ride. It can be higher than the usual or a lil lower but expect the first option, they got worst transportation system. 

There are also places where restrooms are really messy and stinky which urge me not to pee at all and hold it till we reach our hotel. For food, there are some local foods that is worth a try as I have read it on some blogs, but since we got kids, our choices of food are limited to chicken, fries and burgers, which means we need to find the nearest KFC in town! So next time, if planning a food trip and you wanted to discover more about places, leave the kids! (ouch!) 

We went to another city in Johor which is the Nusajaya, a regional city, located west of Johor, Malaysia where Legoland and Hello Kitty Town are located but definitely not on the same town/city. The climate in Malaysia is very very hot and humid during our visit, August-September.

Mall of Medini is the mall in front of Legoland Malaysia. You have to access the mall to find your way to Legoland. The mall looks new and there are a few shops opened during our visit which was a weekend. They got a line of fastfood chains like Burger King and KFC. They also have entertainment rides for little kids and we happened to see a Tamiya Racing Tournament taking place during our visit. They have an art exhibit too, featuring art sculptures made of scrap metals.

Then after spending half of our day at Legoland we went to Puteri Harbour Family Theme Park. It's a 20 minutes taxi ride from Legoland. The taxi dropped us at the Little Red Cube, another shopping mall and family entertainment destination in Johor which is home to Hello Kitty Town and The Little Big Club. Thanks God it's an indoor theme park!

Taxis are very rare in the area of Puteri harbour, except for the blue cabs which are quite expensive. We then took the bus, but buses there have an scheduled time of arrival, departure and routes at certain pick off and drop off points. So we need to wait for the bus to arrive. Tickets are sold inside the bus for RM4.50 each. 

Visiting Johor Bahru for the two major theme parks is more convenient if you're staying at Singapore. Crossing the boarders and travelling by bus for less an hour then spending a day at Johor and travelling back to Singapore is wise considering budget and time. 

But then I didn't consider Singapore because we've been there few years back, and the main plot is Kuala Lumpur. Legoland and Hello Kitty is just a consideration for the two kids who's with us and a birthday gift to my eldest son who cries out loud for Legoland. But for newbie travellers planning a vacation to Singapore please include Johor Bahru in your itinerary especially Legoland, it will cut your time and budget having visited two different cities without flying back and forth.

Hope to visit again Johor Bahru for some historical landmarks, city walks, shopping and foodtrip. Maybe by that time, it is clean, organized, appealing and worthwhile.

Catch our Legoland Malaysia and Hello Kitty Town adventures on my next blog!

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